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Sabah Karimi

People aren't going too far to get away. That's because staycations are on the rise, according to Google Trends data from January 2011 to June 2014 that shows searches for staycations are up 10 percent year after year. More and more people are enjoying their vacation time in their own town or city, and are now looking to add some local tours or other unique experiences to their itinerary for the season.

As a tour and activity operator, you can take the lead on positioning yourself as an attractive option for locals with a variety of targeted marketing campaigns. Here are some of the most impactful ways to market tours to locals planning a staycation in any season:

Promote Staycation Packages

Cater to those planning a staycation by offering "locals only" specials and discounts. You could request proof of residence in the form of a driver's license or document that shows a current address to authorize the discount. Create marketing collateral, such as online banner ads, postcards to mail, and customized emails promoting your locals-only specials and packages to generate bookings. If you are using an online booking software program to coordinate bookings and manage your customer database, you can send out email newsletters or updates about upcoming promotions and packages available throughout the year. You can also use the booking software program to set up redemption codes and discounts for a smooth checkout process.

Stay Active on Social Media

Engaging Twitter and Facebook posts will help you pique potential customers' interest—including locals—even when traveling is not on their mind. A report about consumer sharing behavior from ShareThis finds that, on average, each travel-related share on social media sites generates 40 percent more clicks than other types of shares.

Social networks are popular sharing channels for consumers who want to talk about their travel experiences—the same report reveals 70 percent of consumers use Facebook and 11 percent use Twitter—which means many guests that have booked a tour with you are likely to share their experience with friends and family on social media at some point. You can join the conversation when you discover public updates that mention your company and encourage guests to tag you on Facebook or use the Twitter reply feature to call you out when they want to share an experience. This helps you build a positive social media presence that prospective guests can turn to when they want to learn more about you.

Encourage Guests to Promote Reviews and Experiences

Get others talking about you—it's one of the most powerful ways to drive business. According to an Ogilvy Cannes study, 74 percent of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision, while 88 percent of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts, according to BrightLocal 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey. So reading reviews and looking at ratings will prompt many locals to book.

How can you get them talking, though? For example, a boating tour company in Miami can encourage guests to write a review or testimonial that they share with their fans and followers, and ask the guest to post their review on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by using #miami and #travel. This way, anyone searching for Miami travel ideas on social media sites using those hashtags would see a stream of updates with your company in them, as well as positive reviews by the guest.

Run a Referral Rewards Program

When guests have a once-in-a-lifetime experience (which they'll undoubtedly have on your tour), they'll want to share it with friends and family. So promote yourself by hosting a social media contest—a contest that encourages participants to promote your company and tag their friends, family, and location. Or encourage guests to invite friends and family members in the area to enjoy the same experience and earn a discount that both the invitee and the current guest can use on their next booking. Rewarding local guests for referring their neighbors, coworkers, family members, and acquaintances could be a simple and effective way to drum up business right in your backyard.

Connect with Local Merchants and Organizations on Social Media

Don't operate in a social media bubble. Maximize your time and efforts on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook by reaching out to local merchants and organizations that complement your business. Following your local chamber of commerce, corporate event organizers, and area hotels and resorts can help you gain recognition in the community. If these companies and organizations follow you back, they may share content you post with their fans and followers, thereby spreading the word about your business.

The goal of these interactions is to build your online presence and get acquainted with complementary businesses that may be in a position to promote yours at any given time. When someone is planning a staycation and tuning in to these local merchants and organizations on Twitter and Facebook, they may notice your business along the way.

Reach Out to Local Magazines and Publications

Local magazines and publications often run stories about fun things to do in the area, spotlighting local businesses to check out. Reach out to editors and publishers with a brief introductory email and summary of what your business offers, or consider inviting a member of the media to experience your tour or activity free of charge. The publication may be interested in doing a writeup about your tour or their experience. For example, Boston Magazine ran a story about staycation recommendations by spotlighting four area hotels and vacation home destinations that are ideal for the local traveler. For activities, NewsMax published a feature about fun things to do in Chicago when planning a staycation and listed several local attractions and activity ideas. Getting noticed by local publications like this could help you generate some interest in your business from local readers.

From promoting your business on social media sites to getting featured in local magazines and publications, there are several ways to market your tours and activities to locals searching for staycation ideas. Use these tips to connect with this active market right in your backyard and keep that booking calendar full even during slow seasons.